The Other Side of Diabetes

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I’ve had type one diabetes for 36 years, since I was 11. In that time I’ve run six marathons—the first when I was 15 and the latest a few years ago—had a few careers, and became one of a few people in the world to have been cured of type 1 diabetes.

 

I was a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Washington DC bureau, the City News Bureau of Chicago, the NBC affiliate in Tucson, Arizona, Newsday, and many other publications before I turned to advertising then to writing books. During this time the only diabetic “complication” I ever had to deal with was severe hypoglycemic unawareness that got progressively so bad I ended up in several multi-day comas. To combat the problem, my doctor put me on an insulin pump and that helped curb the lows to such an extent that it became a complete non-issue in my life.

 

It was because of hypoglycemic unawareness, however, and my lack of any other diabetic complication, that in 2004 I was accepted into a study at the University of Virginia testing the effect of implanting insulin-producing islet cells from cadaver pancreases into a person’s liver. In 2006 I received two transplants of donor islet cells shortly afterward I became “insulin independent.” Although I had to take heavy doses of immunosuppressant medication, for more than a year I did not take insulin. It was as though I was cured of diabetes. More importantly, the study was a significant step forward in finding a cure not just myself, but for all diabetics. In my case, the islet cells, however, eventually failed and I resumed taking insulin. One unanticipated benefit even after the cells were no longer active was that I no longer suffered from hypoglycemic unawareness and the amount of insulin I take has been reduced to only two daily injections of long acting insulin.

 

From that experience I researched and wrote Chasing Medical Miracles: The Promise and Perils and Clinical Trials (Walker, 2009) a book about my own experience and about clinical trials in general. The book was well reviewed in the Wall Street Journal, NPR, the Dr, Oz Show, and a few other places. The following year I published my first novel, Bad Day for the Home Team (Zumaya, 2010). I now live in Southeastern Arizona where I am working on a novel, teaching college English, pursuing my master’s degree, and training in fits and starts to run my first 50 mile race.

 

I’ve written several feature articles for A Sweet Life since May 2011, including  Curing Diabetes: Would I Do It Again? and Laying Blame: Why Do People Get Diabetes?.

I look forward to posting more on the newly designed site.

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3 Comments on "The Other Side of Diabetes"

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Shiv Dixit

Your Story id really full of bravery…And no doubt you are one of the few people who cured their type1 diabetes.But you are also one of the athlete with type 1.

Karmel Allison

Welcome! And, thank you– it is the bravery of people like you that makes science possible at all for the rest of us. I can’t wait to read!

Scott K. Johnson

Interesting – thanks Alex!  I’ll put your book on my reading list.

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